Brace Yourself for 'Bernanke Besieged,' and the Fed's Options Including MQE

by: Marc Courtenay

It is hard to underestimate the many outcomes and ploys that Dr. Bernanke and the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) could bring to the financial world as a result of their public statements after today's meeting was concluded.

The Federal Reserve acknowledged today that the economy is growing more slowly than it expected.

Yet it said it will complete its $600 billion Treasury bond buying program by June 30 as planned and surprised no one by announcing that it has no further plans to boost the economy.

Ending a two-day meeting, the Fed repeated the ongoing promise to keep interest rates at record lows for "an extended period," a promise it has made for more than two years.

Today there's still an air of optimism in both stocks and commodities. Having recently purchased some precious metals stocks like Royal Gold (NASDAQ:RGLD), Kinross Gold (NYSE:KGC) and Alexco Resources (NYSEMKT:AXU) as their share prices dipped, I'm glad to see this three-day rally, although today's market outcome is still unclear.

Yet I remain leery as I sense the FOMC's leader's comments today that although the economic data is weak, the Fed doesn't see the need at this point to do any more to stimulate more financial well-being or extend their policy of "quantitative easing."

That being said, they (the FOMC) may just be saying the same things they've said all along about keeping interest rates low and continuing their ongoing monetary policies as a short-term "signal."

That "signal" implies strongly that their determination to support the economy will continue unaltered, and there may be some positive surprises down the road.

It wasn't that long ago that Bernanke publicly told the world the Fed's current monetary policies will continue, "... through at least the next 2 (FOMC) meetings," or words to that effect. He was speaking of this meeting and the meeting on Aug. 9th.

To me it was farcical that stocks rose yesterday on hopes that a vote of confidence in the Greek government would help the country avoid a default. That is, from my perspective a crock of bologna.

At best, it is my opinion that yesterday's upside market was some sort of "short squeeze" or perhaps what some call a "short-covering rally."

Yesterday we all learned something relating to the three volume leaders on the U.S. stock exchanges: SPDR S&P 500 ETF (NYSEARCA:SPY), Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) and the SPDR Select Sector Financial ETF (NYSEARCA:XLF).

It confirmed a "hope and hype" market rally that is centered on the theme that we may be on the verge of some good news from the "central bank" of the U.S. which would ignite a big market rally and be especially helpful for the financial sector.

Take a look at this chart comparing the 12 month performance of XLF to BAC. It demonstrates how the financial sector has been in downturn mode for months.

Chart forFinancial Select Sector SPDR (<a href='' title='Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF'>XLF</a>)

Whether investors and the markets will get their "shot of adrenaline" sooner or later is the main question we might want to be entertaining.

If the Fed follows last summer's script, they may wait until the annual "Head Honcho Roundup" in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, followed immediately by a much anticipated burst of good news that the Fed, "... is compelled to continue its extensive fiscal accommodation policy," also known as "more quantitative easing" (MQE).

That's what the stock and commodity markets seem to be craving ... MQE. The onslaught of dismal news, from increased unemployment, waning new employment opportunities and a seemingly endless plunge in home prices suggests MQE.

After the run up we've seen in speculative anticipation of the Fed's decision and the supposed hope for the Greek crisis, now may be a good time, as Jim Cramer likes to say, "to take some profits off the table."

In other words, the market is subject to a possible ongoing summer correction. We still haven't tested the 200-day moving average of 1250 on the S&P 500.

So make sure you are not over-exposed, and make sure you have enough cash to "buy low" if the market surprises to the downside. You might also consider "hedging" positions that you want to remain "long" in.

The Fed could chose to keep investors in suspense for the immediate future and trigger a further, sharp short-term correction in the above-mentioned markets.

Or they may continue to choose, as they did today, to say little or not enough to give us a clear picture of their intentions and may put the whole show on "hold."

They may, however, eventually decide to give traders and investors the kind of news they really want. That may happen as soon as the next FOMC meeting in August.

That's the kind of news that drives money away from cash and short-term money market accounts and into the arms of what Dr. Bernanke has in the past called "alternative investment choices" like stocks.

One way or another, by the time the "fat lady sang" today, Bernanke appeared to be as besieged with immediate questions about the Fed's intentions as he has been for weeks.

By the time he finishes his prepared summary of the FOMC's next meeting (August 9th), investors will either be singing Elvis' "Heartbreak Hotel," Etta James' "At Last" or Peggy Lee's "Is That All There Is?"

Disclosure: I am long RGLD, KGC, AXU.

Additional disclosure: At some point the financial sector will have to move higher in order for a broad stock market advance to occur. When that happens I'll be considering XLF and the Proshares Ultra Financial ETF (NYSEARCA:UYG).